Indian Startups Are Gearing Up to Make the Most of 2021

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2020 was a year full of strangeness and uncertainty for people and economies alike. Due to the pandemic, the prospect of profit and investment dwindled for many companies, especially startups.

The first half of the year saw thousand of layoffs and pay cuts all over the world and India was no different. Unicorns like Zomato and OYO found themselves struggling and the story was worse for smaller companies with lesser capital. At the same time, amended FDI policies cut-off China, one of the biggest sources of investments in India, from its startup ecosystem.

However, while the economy and people undoubtedly suffered, India’s performance was not that bad. 11 companies became unicorns, i.e., their valuation surpassed $1 billion. In total, Indian startups raised close to $12.8 billion and held approximately 1,350 funding rounds in total. While this figure was lesser as compared to the past 3 years, it was still double the investment acquired in 2016.

But it seems that the dark days are over. According to the Economic Times, at least half of the new unicorns will be hiring employees and expanding their workforce across all departments in 2021, with some planning to even gain a stronger footing in their international markets.

Six Unicorns Confirmed to Start Hiring

Out of the 11 newly minted startup unicorns, 6 have confirmed that they will begin hiring in 2021. These job packages will most likely range from 15 lakh to 60 lakh per annum, based on department and post. Interestingly, the job package will go up to a crore-plus at the senior leadership levels.

The teams that these startups are looking to add to are sales, product, technology, operations, engineering, and data sciences.

Razorpay will be adding about 500 employees to their workforce this year. While their main focus will be engineering and product experts, they will also expand manpower for sales, finance, and customer service.

Zenoti, the homegrown multinational software company which currently functions at a capacity of 550 employees will upgrade to a workforce of almost 1,000 with 400 new positions. The company will not only hire for their Indian leg, but also for their operations in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. While priority will be given to product development, sales will also be a target in the United States.

Another company eyeing overseas expansion is Pine Labs, a merchant platform that has been in the game for 22 years. According to Anu Mathew, Chief People Officer, the company hopes to hire 300 new employees. This hiring round is set to begin this month itself and is expected to continue well into March. Their focus will be technological enhancement of their product and sales. With a decent presence in the United Arab Emirates, Pine Labs will redirect their focus to South East Asia, this time outside India, too.

Other companies, which revealed lesser details about their plans are Postman, Cars24, and Glance. Postman seeks to double its workforce this year, whereas Cars24, a used cars marketplace reportedly will expand by 10-20%. They will focus on positions across all aforementioned departments.

Glance, the newest company among all the unicorns, founded only 2 yrs ago, is looking to increase its workforce of 400-something employees by 30-40%. It also plans on expanding to other South-East Asian countries, the US, and Latin America. They will be hiring for spots in their technology, product development, and operations teams.

The remaining unicorns – Zerodha, Nykaa, FirstCry, Unacademy, and Daily Hunt – refused to comment.

However, some guesses can be made. Daily Hunt most definitely has plans for growth, if not through hiring only, as it is one of the 30 companies that receives funding from Goggle’s Digitization India Fund.

Nykaa is a trusted online lifestyle and beauty marketplace and is planning a $3 billion IPO this year. Unacademy, the EdTech app, made 5 acquisitions in 2020 and is committed to growth. Additionally, EdTech has become an emerging lucrative industry and attracted investments of $4.9 billion last year. Given that 2021 has better economic prospects overall (so far, at least), this number is only expected to grow.

Finally, coming back to Google’s Digitization India Fund, half of it hasn’t been invested yet, meaning that the company will pump in more capital into India’s startup ecosystem this year.


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